Utility Warehouse to pay £1.5m for ‘mistreating customers in debt’

Energy regulator found that the London-based supplier did not take the necessary steps to treat some customers fairly in the period between 2013-2019

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Ofgem has today announced that energy supplier Utility Warehouse (UW) has agreed to pay £1.5 million for its failings to treat fairly customers in debt.

That follows an audit report in 2018 and a formal investigation by the energy regulator that found that the energy supplier’s failings took place between 2013 and 2019.

Ofgem said the supplier did not consistently offer to put domestic customers struggling to pay their energy bills on debt repayment plans, to allow payments to be taken directly from customers’ benefits or to take into account customers’ ability to pay when calculating regular instalments as required.

Customers were not consistently offered the option of paying back charges through the voluntary installation of a pre-payment meter or offered energy efficiency advice on how to reduce their bills.

In some cases, this led to the unnecessary installation of pre-payment meters under warrant, according to Ofgem.

UW also raised the fact that it submitted some inaccurate Social Obligation Reporting (SOR) data to Ofgem between 2013-2019.

The company has offered to pay £1.5 million into the voluntary redress fund which supports vulnerable customers.

Cathryn Scott, Director of Enforcement and Emerging Issues at Ofgem, said: “Energy suppliers are required to look after their customers, especially those in vulnerable situations. Between 2013-2019 UW failed to take the necessary steps to treat some customers in payment difficulty fairly, depriving them of the opportunity to manage their energy debt and ongoing energy costs.

“While the unprecedented and unexpected rise in gas and electricity prices over recent months has put energy markets under severe strain, we expect suppliers to continue to comply with their licence obligations and treat people fairly, including by providing support to vulnerable consumers. Where we see poor behaviour, Ofgem will be ready to step in and take swift action.”

A UW spokesperson told ELN: “UW will pay £1.5 million into the Voluntary Redress Fund following an Ofgem investigation into its historic provision of payment services to some customers in payment difficulty.

“We carefully reviewed the account histories of the individual customers impacted, and we regret that some of them did not receive a service that was appropriate and supportive of their circumstances.

“We accept Ofgem’s findings in relation to these historic infringements and have worked hard to close any potential gaps in our processes, with Ofgem recognising that this had been fully achieved by December 2019.”

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